Bad days, weeks, months and even years are a part of life. Money more than likely isn’t your chief concern when you’re having a bad day but it can be so frustrating to see you financial plans delayed or destroyed when you’re working so hard. It can be especially damaging if you were already struggling to get a grip on your day to day finances.
But how do you save money in sub-optimal conditions? Or to put it another way, how do you keep hold of your hard earned cash when life is throwing shovels full of shit in your direction?
I’ve revisited this post a few times, sometimes to add to the advice and other times as a reminder to myself. When I originally posted it I almost postponed publishing because I couldn’t polish it as much as I would like thanks to my ongoing back problems. Just do your best on the day you’re in. There will be opportunities in the future to do better.
It’s easy to save money when you had a great night’s sleep, a productive day in the office, the sun is shining and your pre-cooked bolognaise is defrosting in the kitchen. At least, it’s easier. If the day has gone well, it’s easier to push through tiredness to do something financially sensible. It’s easier to avoid the pull towards retail therapy and mindless spending. But saving in sub-optimal conditions? Now that’s a lot tougher.
There have been swathes of time where I’ve not found it easy to make good financial decisions. Where circumstances have been sub-optimal and saving has been hard work. Like I mentioned above, I have problems with my back after a seemingly innocent injury a few years ago. Until this point, I had always recognised how fortunate I was to have my health, although it is something we cannot fully appreciate until we lose it. I woke one morning at 3am in agony and that pain stayed with me for several weeks.
Some days I have a searing pain down my shoulder blade has a searing pain that saps my energy all day.
The question is, when life hits us with inevitable challenges, how to we find the energy and focus to make good financial decisions, when what we feel like doing is eating a tray of krispy cremes and ignoring the fact that the car insurance renewal is due and the price you’ve been quoted is a joke?
Here are a few suggestions to stop bad days ruining good financial habits:
Buy the right treats
It is easy to waste money on things intended to lift your spirits but make sure you’re spending money in the right places. A new handbag, pair of shoes or PS4 game isn’t going to help your situation (although the PS4 games would at least provide some distraction). Eating a tray of krispy cremes may sound good in theory, but neglecting your health is going to have negative consequences overall.
Instead, use your money to make your situation easier. When my back was bad, we’d buy microwavable rice pouches as well as fresh pasta and sauces to make cooking in manageable. We spent more on groceries, but we still ate well without eating out or buying takeaways all of the time.
Eat a banana and drink some water
If you can choose a banana when what you really want is a bar of chocolate, and a glass of water when you want a coffee or can of coke, it’s not only cheaper but it is better for your health. Keeping yourself from becoming sluggish with a sugar crash will help stop you making lazy decisions that cost you money.
Know when saving money will cost you money
You could expend a load of energy making a meal from scratch for the lowest price possible. But if that leaves you without the energy and motivation to even lift a finger in the kitchen the following day, the cost of a takeaway will far exceed the money you saved the previous night.
It might not be the very cheapest option, but purchasing a few more convenience foods mean you’ll avoid caving in and buying a takeaway and will save you money in the long run.
Keep your goals manageable
It is better to keep inching forward than draw to a halt. Don’t expect yourself to move mountains everyday and don’t give yourself too hard a time if you spend more than you would like; it is only money, after all!
Consider your larger goals and what small things you can do (or avoid doing) to get there.
Money can feel completely irrelevant when you’re in a lot of physical pain or carrying a heavy emotional burden. I find it helpful to have non-money related goals that were cheap or inexpensive, but that helped me deal with the situation.
For example, when I first hurt my back and couldn’t work, I would get up in the morning, have a shower and get dressed (a challenge in itself). Then I would go for a short walk before lunch. Achieving these things helped the physical pain, made me feel more positive, and didn’t cost me anything to maintain.
Give yourself some leeway
Beating yourself up or feeling guilty that you’re spending more than you want to (or saving less) will leave you feeling demotivated and you might find it takes longer to get back to a place where you can push yourself to save more and spend less.
Accept that your situation means you’re going to let yourself have a little more flexibility (remember- you’re in control) for the good of your own emotional and physical health. Because lets face it, financial wealth isn’t much good if you don’t have those other two things.
These are the things I have learned over time and I’m sure they will serve me again in the future. If I can find out how to completely avoid bad days, I’ll let you know (maybe this is how I’ll make my millions?) I really hope this is helpful if you’re struggling to find the energy and motivation to save money when life and events conspire against you. If you have any other suggestions, I would absolutely love to hear them. But right now, I’m going to lie down and rest.
How have you kept on track with your financial plans when everything’s going pear-shaped or have you let them fall by the wayside?